Publicis buys top French design agency

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Paris--Publicis Group has finalized the acqui-sition of leading French design agency Carre Noir, which it plans to put at the heart of a Revitalized "Language and Design" division of corporate agency Publicis Consultants, Paris. Founded in 1973, Carre Noir has built a reputation in France and abroad for its creation of brand imagery, visual identity, packaging and commercial architecture. Its client roster includes retailer Le Bon Marche, high fashion house Ines de La Fressange and tiremaker Michelin.

Carre Noir is the latest addition to Publicis Consultants' Language and Design division, which swallowed up leading French packaging designer Ekonos in 2000. The division employs a staff of 120, and should see gross income topping $14 million in 2001 from work for clients including banking giant BNP-Paribas, travel specialist Club Med, telecoms leader SFR and Franco-Canadian communications, entertainment and utilities powerhouse Vivendi Universal. Publicis Consultants President Eric Giuily says the ongoing build-up of the Language and Design division is part of a strategy to put design at the heart of corporate communications consulting operations carried out by the agency.

For Publicis President Maurice Levy, the Carre Noir acquisition -- price undisclosed -- and the subsequent reinforcement of the Language and Design division, signals the French group's willingness "to provide its clients ... a high-level, global and integrated service." Aside from the Carre Noire acquistion, Mr. Levy also announced strong preliminary financial results for 2000, including a 72% billings hike over the previous year, to just under $11 billion.

The figure bears testimony to the wide-ranging global expansion carried out by the French group during 2000, but only includes fourth quarter billings from recently acquired U.K.-based Saatchi & Saatchi. Excluding the Saatchi & Saatchi acquisition, Publicis billings grew by 48% in 2000, while pure organic growth of existing operations topped 15%, stoked by new business topping $1.6 billion, Mr. Levy said. In terms of geographic distribution, billings grew by 14% in Publicis' key European market, 15% in the North American market, and more than 20% in the rest of the world.

Copyright February 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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